Slots up, Pari-Mutuel down in Florida

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Keeping “the pedal to the metal,” Florida’s gaming business was crankin’ for December, reporting an even more impressive first six months of the 2014-15 fiscal year.

December’s Net Slot Revenue was up 5.7% (over $2.3 million) contributing tax revenue of $15.1 million to the state. That tax increase was $800,000 more than December 2014.

Individual operators had a decent December with four properties up and three down. The undisputed leader, Isle at Pompano did $1.2 million more in Net Slot Revenue than December last year – up an eye popping 10.5%.

Hialeah Casino did almost $850,000 more than last year – a whopping 19% increase. Magic City was up over a half-million dollars, 8.9%; Gulfstream, up a bit over $250,000, 6.4%. Mardi Gras was down 6%, Miami Jai Alai, down 3.8% and Calder off less than one percent.

Florida’s gaming numbers for the first six months are very impressive: Up $10.25 million compared with last year – a very respectable 4.44% increase. That projects out to a potentially very strong $519 million in NSR and $181 million in tax revenue for fiscal 2014-15.

However, our research on the first six months indicates three facilities supplied most of the gain, while two were off small amounts and two off substantially.

Hialeah Race Track Casino was ahead of last year (only open 5 months), up $9 million, Isles at Pompano, up $3.2 million, and Magic City, up $1.7 million. Calder Casino was off $800,000 and Gulfstream, down $167,000. Casino at Miami Jai Alai was down $3.8 million and Mardi Gras $1.9 million.

Though this midyear report appears “impressive” for Florida gaming, the actual numbers are a bit deceiving. The preponderance of those gains was due to Hialeah having a 5 month (2013-14) versus a 6 month (2104-15) comparative time frame.

November numbers

Pari-mutuel and card room figures for November were not nearly as impressive as the NSR. The pari-mutuels experienced a substantial drop from last year: down $11.3 million, or 16.4%, continuing a long term trend.

Thoroughbreds were down the largest percentage, greyhounds, jai alai smaller percentages, harness was almost even. Quarter horses were dark in November.

Florida card rooms, which tend to bump up a small amount each month, did not in November. Collectively, the state’s card rooms were down $495,000, 4.3%, with published gross receipts under $11 million.

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Odds n’ ends

The Miami Herald reported Governor Rick Scott held a secret, closed door, pre-arranged meeting with South Florida pari-mutuel executives.

Racing and pari-mutuel operators prodded Scott to renew the expiring Seminole Indian compact hoping it will result in new legislation lowering racino taxes and increasing operating hours.

Officials represented Hialeah, Miami Jai Alai, Magic City, Calder, Mardi Gras, Dania and Isle of Capri. Missing were Gulfstream and Palm Beach Kennel Club (not a racino but looking to become one). By not placing the meeting on his official calendar, Scott sidestepped the state’s “sunshine” law, a favorite tactic of the his office.

A Senate committee approved a bill requiring reports to be filed with the state about injuries to racing greyhounds. The bill (SB 2), sponsored by Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, is expected to be one of the first measures passed by the full Senate when the annual legislative session starts in March.

The House has a companion bill, which if history repeats itself, will end up crammed with all manner of loopy amendments by the time (or if it ever) it comes to a vote.

Daytona Beach Kennel Club recently hosted yet another reincarnation of the national championship of greyhound racing. The 550 yard race featured dogs from six tracks and was simulcast around the USA. Husker Magic of Derby Lane won paying $12/6.80/2.10

Massive renovations at Sun Life Stadium are underway at a breakneck pace according to an anonymous on-site source. Owner Stephen Ross expects to hit completion of Phase I before the Aug. 26 preseason opener.

The Herald reported the refurbished building has an excellent chance to host the Super Bowl in 2019 or ’20. Dolphins Sky Box season ticket holders now have the option of being picked up and returned home (for an undisclosed price) in a limo with a top secret entry/exit to the stadium that avoids the traffic.

Dolphins ticket prices for the upcoming season will be announced shortly. The new stadium configuration with 18,000 fewer seats has reinvigorated the University of Miami football sports marketers.

The U, a long term tenant, announced a complete season ticket holder re-“seat” starring a “pick your seats” day in February.

• Snowbirds from the Northeast can finally relax: WAWA, the fast mart champ, is finally coming to South Florida: beginning in Palm Beach this spring…which no doubt will mean new advertising dollars for the local pro and college teams.

• The Marlins are rumored to finally host an All Star Game in 2017, 26 years after the franchise debut. Former MLB czar Bud Selig pulled the 2000 game from the old Marlins/Dolphins Stadium calling it “unsuitable” and gave it to Atlanta. SoFlo fans were disgusted then and now. Apparently the newly constructed Marlins Stadium swung the deal. The team continues its uncharacteristic spending, adding Ichiro as their fourth outfielder.

• David Beckham’s oddly quiet group has reportedly identified several new spaces for an MLS stadium in Miami’s downtown. City officials claim they have not heard from Becks for five months.

• Creative attorneys representing “arcade” gambling shops pervasive in state strip malls opened a new front for their fight. Countering both legislative and legal attempts to shutter these illegal “Internet cafes,” they’ve lumped family fun arcades (Dave n’ Busters/Chuck E. Cheese) and even Walt Disney World’s redemption games (Frontier Land) into the legal fray.

• Another attempt to legalize pari-mutuel racing via constitutional amendment in the Peach State is underway. Sponsors in the Georgia House and Senate say the race track would be privately funded and proceeds will benefit education. Similar initiatives have been introduced for the past 7 years and never reached the House floor for debate.

• Alabama’s Attorney General Luther Strange is again trying to prohibit slots on the tribal reservations of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (who also operate Florida’s panhandle Gretna casino). This time he’s taking the fight to the state’s Supreme Court.

• AP reports the Florida Seminole Tribe is again considering entering the Atlantic City market with a boutique hotel casino.

• On March 27 Swiss mogul Sarkis Izmirlian will intro phase 1 of his $3.5 billion Baha Mar resort on Cable Beach, Nassau. A mere 10 minute cab ride from current resort/casino champ, Atlantis, it’s also only 208 (wet) kilometers from Genting’s new Resort World casino complex under construction on the island of Bimini.

Baha Mar will house a 100,000 square foot casino/sports book, a 1,000 room Baha Mar Hotel, a Grand Hyatt hotel, a 300 room SLS luxury hotel and a 200 room Rosewood hotel, plus private residences and retail surrounded by a Jack Nicklaus TPC Gold Course. The Grand Opening series, spanning April and May, is being produced by Emilio Estefan and Jamie King.

• ESPN wants the date of the Orange Bowl game changed from Thursday, Dec. 31 to Saturday, Jan. 2. Along with the Cotton Bowl, the OB hosts a semifinal in the upcoming college football playoffs. The network shows the two semis back to back and is concerned the New Year’s Eve date will greatly diminish ratings.

The NCAA is not inclined to make the change having set the semis on those dates for the next 11 years. OB officials will abide by whatever date is selected.

• The University of Central Florida, taking a page from their big brother Jacksonville Jags, is installing a “beach section” called the “East Side Club” in their oft empty stadium. Membership is $900 and includes a season ticket chair back in the immediate area.

Unlike the rest of the stadium, beer and cocktails will be sold and fans can roam an area between the 30 yard lines. The new Club is an attempt to attract the young UCF alumni demographic to bolster very spotty attendance in spite of strong W/L records for Coach O’Leary.

Baird Thompson and Bill Hutchinson bring a combined 80 years of gaming marketing and administration experience to Gaming Today. Contact them at [email protected].

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